FORT HOOD, Texas--"They say that the EIB is the mark of a man for an infantry Soldier," stated Spc. Royce Applegren, an infantryman assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

Troopers assigned to 4th BCT and other units based at Fort Hood competed for their Expert Infantryman Badge, or EIB, proving they hold the highest degree of competence as infantrymen, March 27-31, during a five-day test period. EIB testing is a rigorous, outcomes- based event that tests a candidate's mental and physical endurance and tactical and technical competence.

The EIB test challenges infantrymen to demonstrate their proficiency of core tasks they will be required to perform during combat. Upon successfully completing the EIB test, candidates are awarded their badge, a Kentucky rifle superimposed upon a rectangular, infantry blue shield.

"Obtaining my EIB means I'm an expert in all my tasks and drills as an infantryman," said Staff Sgt. Cheyenne Smithey, a squad leader assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry.

"It lets people know that we know our job, and no matter what, we can do any one of these tasks that needs to be done to the required level of proficiency," said Smithey a native of Walsenburg, Colo.

Smithey, who has been in the Army nine years, has his eyes set on earning his EIB during his second attempt. He said he feels good to be able to compete for his badge and stated, "If you don't focus and pay attention to detail on all these tasks, you're not going to get it."

Troopers started the week of testing by taking an Army Physical Fitness Test. To pass the APFT portion of EIB testing, Soldiers must complete the push-up, sit-up and run events with a score at the 75 percentile or higher in their respective age group.

In addition to the APFT, Soldiers competing to earn the coveted EIB were tested on land navigation, weapons familiarization and operations, placing a radio into operation, treating a casualty, responding to enemy fire, identifying terrain features, conducting individual movement techniques, and submitting a call for artillery fire. All of these tasks are required to be completed within a certain time limit. The final event of the EIB test is the 12 mile road march -- a test of the candidates' endurance.

Infantrymen trained for a week prior to the EIB testing. During the training, infantrymen who already earned their EIBs mentored the EIB candidates to help them hone their proficiency in the myriad skills they must master.

Even before the training or testing portions could take place, the planning started in January. Senior noncommissioned officers of 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 4th BCT, 1st Cav Div., coordinated between multiple brigades and across Fort Hood to develop the rigorous testing. In total, over 300 initial candidates for EIB testing were identified. Each of the testing lanes were ran by a different battalion of 4th BCT, 1st Cav Div.

At the different testing lanes, Soldiers studied with each other one last time and worked closely to keep their motivation high.

"This (EIB testing) definitely builds unit cohesion," said Applegren, who hails from Chicago. "As you can see, we have everyone out here: company commanders, platoon leaders, and first sergeants. We all get to come out here and train together so it just helps us build off of each other and that in turn makes us more proficient."

"I'm glad that senior leadership has the chance to do this and it's also important to show the Soldiers that this is something important," said Cpt. Brandon Bangsboll, commander for Company A, 2nd Bn., 7th Cav. Reg.

"This isn't just for a badge; these are skills we need to know how to do as infantry Soldiers. Everyone's a Soldier regardless of rank and they need to be proficient at these skills," added Bangsboll, a native of Atlanta.

Infantrymen competing for their EIB proved their proficiency as Soldiers and reinforced how the Army remains strong and keeps troopers ready to deploy, engage and destroy the enemies of the United States in close combat.